Harnessing the Power of Technology Highly Commended: Grab

Published: Jan 2020


Photo of Adrian Ong, UOB, Gary Wong, Wilson Koh, Tew Woon Chong and William Low, Grab.

Wilson Koh

Group Treasurer


Grab is Southeast Asia’s leading super app that provides everyday services that matter the most to consumers. Through its open platform strategy, Grab works with partners to provide safe, accessible and affordable transport, food, package, grocery delivery, mobile payments and financial services to millions of Southeast Asians.

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The curious case of the invisible treasury at Grab

The challenge

As Grab scales its transport, food and mobility businesses, the company has a unique opportunity to be a financial omnibus for its customers, drivers and merchants who are connected to the platform. The Grab platform sustains a dynamic ecosystem, connecting Grab seamlessly with its partners and consumers and enabling its drivers and merchants to be paid instantly, to access credit, to move from cash to cashless and to access seamless banking services.

The company’s extensive Southeast Asian footprint also presents challenges in managing cash and treasury activities, ranging from cross-border payments, foreign exchange transactions, investments, financing to bank account management, across the different markets while conforming to local regulations and constraints.

In addition, Grab needed to work smarter in reducing the cost of funds-in and funds-out, while ensuring optimal liquidity management.

The solution

Grab’s mantra from the beginning has always been to forge strategic partnerships where the intentions of both parties are aligned and to access deep local expertise. This is in part due to the fragmented nature of the markets and the dynamic operating environment across Southeast Asia, where the social trust between people, the way they interact with cash and cashless channels and the way they transact with banks, vary across markets.

As Grab has expanded its service delivery platform in the region, leveraging these strategic partnerships has enabled Grab to drive innovation, ensuring that quick-to-market, regulatory compliant and market relevant products and services are deployed.

Wilson Koh, Group Treasurer of Grab, highlighted the criticality of finding the right partners. When Grab started out a lending business, it found a joint venture partner to enable its target business model. When it wanted to deliver an insurance service offering to their consumers, it also found a joint venture partner.

“Likewise, in Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia, we have established banking partnerships which have helped us to scale very quickly in each one of these markets,” says Koh.

In Singapore, Grab forged a strategic alliance with UOB in Nov 2018. Through this relationship Grab is able to access a variety of banking solutions. The company deployed an instant payment solution for settlement with driver partners and merchants using a straight through processing API. This greatly enhances the payout experience for the driver partners and merchants on a 24/7 basis.

UOB internet banking solutions and industry-standard SWIFT interfaces were also deployed to enable Grab’s treasury and finance team to have greater accessibility to their bank accounts while on a single platform. The UOB BIBPlus solution also enables Grab to have easy access to a wide variety of FX execution capabilities.

Best practice and innovation

Digital transformation has touched almost every aspect of consumers’ lives. Grab has led a digital evolution, which links communities more efficiently, transforming and continually improving day-to-day activities. As Grab continues to drive innovation as a key catalyst for changing how consumers transact, shop, consume, travel or commute, corporate treasury needs to be at the forefront of this ongoing digitalisation.

This includes working with banking partners to develop solutions that will enable and facilitate the continuing drive for innovation. Leveraging API technologies and payment initiatives launched by the Singapore government (eg FAST and PayNow Corporate), traditional payments processing has been effectively transformed into seamless, instant settlement to merchants and drivers, enabling these partners to benefit from on-demand, 24/7 settlements.

Key benefits

  • Increased STP.
  • Onboarding provided.
  • Regional footprint.

“The way I think about running corporate treasury is that if we are doing a good job, nobody will even realise we exist or the extent of the value we create. The work has really only just begun. Our consumers and partners deserve the very best, and it is imperative that we earn the right to serve,” concludes Koh.

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